Yearly Archives: 2014

It’s The Holiday Season

We’re pretty much enscosed now. Gordon is here, we’re doing the final arrangements in the apartment, and we’re getting into the swing of things, just in time for the holiday season.

First up, Thanksgiving. It’s obviously not a regular UAE thing, but there are enough Americans and other Westerners wanting to celebrate something, anything, that it becomes a thing. Plus many of the big hotels don’t want to miss a trick, so they put on big meals. The many clubs and groups do their own parties as well. So we are doing Thanksgiving, and that’s fine by me! Big meal, social occasion, what’s not to like? The history has no meaning any more, at least it doesn’t affect it for me.

Then next Tuesday is UAE’s National Day, which this year is the 43rd anniversary of the founding of the United Arab Emirates. That’s right, this country is one year older than me. It’s going to be very big – fireworks over the Gulf, flags and decorated cars. We’re staying in, not because we’re scared, but because the traffic will be insane, and we walk down from our apartment to the Corniche along the waterfront and take a look at the celebrations. Plus I get the day off for this national holiday.

Xmas is also very big. Again, the history has no meaning here, but then again, where does it? I’m only in it for the social aspect – family, friends, food, drink, gifts.

Cassie and I are staying here for the holidays, because we only just got Gordon here, and finding flights, hotels and dog boarding was impossible. We’ll take a trip to the UK in early February instead. We’ll go for a nice dinner or lunch at one of the fancy hotels – again, they do big Xmas specials with champagne and so on.

Basically, you take any chance you can get to be social with Westerners here. There’s all sorts of clubs and groups to join.

The weather is very nice at the moment, topping out at 30C, but still pretty humid. It will get cooler through the winter, then from about May until September it will get (in the words of a French ex-colleague who lived here – imagine the accent) “f***ing brutal”. I will be saving my vacation days for then.

We’re In

Cassie and I moved into our new apartment in Abu Dhabi on Friday, bringing to an end a far-too-long period of living out of suitcases in hotel rooms. Our new place, on the 15th floor of the Capital Plaza building, has a view of the Arabian Gulf, two bedrooms, four bathrooms (yes) and tiled floors throughout. The Capital Plaza building complex contains the fancy Sofitel, has five towers (hotel, office, three residences), and looks like it was designed by Ivo Shandor. I’ll be posting some photographs soon.

Four bathrooms in the American sense. two bedrooms, each with an en-suite, one “powder room” or “cloak room”, and one bathroom off the maid’s room (yes), which we’re using to store boxes.

There’s a lot more to write about obviously, because the last couple of months have been a real rollercoaster. More to come. In the meantime, I will leave you with a new word I learned today:

A contraction of “Abu Dhabi” and “anniversary”. People celebrate (in their own way) many abuversaries. 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, 5 years, whatever it takes to mark the passing of time, and your ability to survive.

I’m Definitely Going To Need New Shades

So yes, this impending move to basically a swamp by a desert is going to mean some changes in the wardrobe. Apparently the business dress is very formal, so I will have to get used to wearing a suit and tie again. I used to do this as a matter of course, but hanging around with Construction Engineers, and cycling to work, meant that my sartorial standards have slipped. I’m looking forward to getting suited up for the office once more. Maybe some new desert boots too. New suit hunt documentation to come.

I’m definitely going to need new shades (and yes, I will call them shades). I just got a new prescription for my eyes, and I will be getting new glasses before we go, so I’ll get some good shades as well. Some good ones, not the acceptable-but-not-really-very-good cheapo online ones.

But what style? So many options. So many pitfalls.

Having had opinions for most of my life, and after some research, here’s a bit of a pinboard of styles I like. Feel free to comment sotto voce.

Spotting a trend?

Not all of these are possible or desirable, of course, but I wanted to clarify a few points. Wraparounds are out (even though seeing Rik wear them in ‘Bomb‘ made me want to), Ray Ban Wayfarers are out (overkill), the Steve McQueen Persol look is a bit “Esquire”. But in the end, I have to go with what I think looks good. I’ll be sure to post what I get. I would also welcome comments from you.

I must say I’m keen on the clear frames look. What do you think?

Anyway, from TV star Eddie Monsoon, the fantastic and controversial ‘Back to Normal with Eddie Monsoon’ from 1983. Good shades.

A Festival-Goer Through The Years

My good friend Dr James Kneale gets around. He likes avoiding getting muddy at traditional British muso events like Glastonbury when it was still a little bit cool.

James at Glastonbury

James at Glastonbury

But what you may not know is that he always knew where the party was.

(Side note:




Yes, even in the face of mid-period Thatcherite police brutality, he was there at the Battle of the Beanfield. Here we see him drawing the attention of a 80’s-mustachioed war cop.

James at the Battle of the Beanfield

James at the Battle of the Beanfield

It’s not all fun fun fun though. James is more about getting messy in the literal sense, rather than the music journalism figurative sense. He was there when corporate greed and laziness (for example painting the the doomed molasses tank brown to hide the leaks) killed 21 people and injured 150 in the Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919.

James at the Boston Molasses Flood

James at the Boston Molasses Flood

But for chest-deep mud and human suffering, you can’t beat the trenches of the First World War, the War that should have ended all Wars, but in fact was just one caused by previous, and leading to more.

James at the Somme

James at the Somme

Not really sure what the point of this post is/was. James posted the picture of him at “Glasto”, and I just thought it would be fun to paste him into other muddy/messy scenes. This was a while back.

But then with it being the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, and many British friends posting pictures of great-grandads and so on, it might seem a bit disrespectful. That’s not the intention. Just a silly idea, based on a whim.

Anyway, the joke is that the joke is still being told, and despite it not being funny, humans can’t help keep telling it, in the hope that this time it’ll elicit a laugh.

What? Where Next Now? – The New Plan


Cassie and I. And Gordon later on.


Moving from the Bay Area to another country.


Probably mid-to-late September 2014. We’re moving out of our apartment first, into the glory that is the Hyatt House, Emeryville.


United Arab Emirates. My office will be in Abu Dhabi, but we are considering living in Dubai.


Why? Why are we moving 8127.11 mi (13079.32 km) from Oakland, CA, USA to a city built on desert wetlands in the Middle East? Via the North Pole, apparently?

2014-07-15 09_14_49-Google Maps


… And With Whom?

I am going with my company, Parsons Corp, to join a new Design Center in the Abu Dhabi office working on various projects, including the new Red Line of the Dubai Metro, and a new passenger heavy rail line for Etihad Rail.

For How Long?

“Indefinitely”. That is to say, not for a fixed term contract, but to be a part of the design group over there. That said, who knows. Realistically, we may decide that we can’t take the 110°F / 43°C heat and 80% humidity for too long.

Will You Be Visiting?

We’ll be in the UK for Christmas (even though the depths of winter is when it’s the nicest). I hope to see as many people as I can.

What Do You Want To Do Before You Leave?

See as many people as I can. Cassie has the restaurant list. I’m planning a trip to the Computer History Museum. Perhaps an aquarium or two. But it’s hard to cram in fun things when there’s so much to do at home and at work.

Suggestions for things to do please! Come on, Bay Area folks!

It’s a big move. It’s a long story. Lots going on. Lots to do. More soon.

Inky Success

For reasons that will become clear in good time, I’ve been inspired to fix and sort out all sorts of little projects that have been hanging over me. This is partly procrastination for the more important tasks, but hey, I’m getting stuff done.

I like fountain pens. We’re not talking Mont Blanc Meisterstucks here, just your basics. I’ve never had great handwriting, and I find that fountain pens make it a lot better. I had cheap WHSmiths ones at school, and I’ve treated myself to upgrades ever since. The school pens always used the standard blue ink cartridges, which made terrible weapons if you poked a few holes in them with a compass point, then threw them at someone’s shirt.

I recently got a Kaweco Sport from JetPens, which I love. Ii makes me happy, because it was cheap, and it’s nice and smooth to use, and it’s compact, and it uses the international standard ink cartridges. Over the years, I appear to have gathered many of these cartridges, and it makes me very annoyed when I think about how many different cartridge sizes there are. It’s an example of naked selfish greed, to force people to use the cartridges that only fit your brand of pen. Kaweco does the right thing, and uses the international standard. Plus they have that great German thing of making their name from the abbreviations of three words (I think, or is that KaDeWe?).

On an unrelated note (apart from in an office supply obsession sense), also from JetPens I bought a Uni Kuru Toga mechanical pencil, which rotates the lead as you write or scribble or sketch swimlane diagrams. This prevents the classic “hypodermic” sharp point you get. Nice design too.

Cassie bought me a nice Cross Century for Xmas a couple of years back. I was very pleased, and ever since I’ve tried to incorporate it into my daily scrawling arsenal. Sadly though, it never really worked out, because no sooner had I inserted one of the proprietary Cross ink cartridges, the pen would start writing all scratchy and dry out. It wouldn’t last a few hours, and by the next day it was completely dried up. The pen became one of the little things that needed fixing.

A week ago, I was checking out whether it was possible to repair these pens. I found the Cross forum on The Fountain Pen Network, and did some reading. It turns out that Cross ink is notoriously dry, and Cross pens run dry as well. Several people suggested that switching to a refillable cartridge converter and using bottled ink would solve the problem. So I bought a Cross refillable converter, and a bottle of the recommended Aurora black ink, which gets lots of good reviews for being wet and giving good flow in most pens.

Both items arrived on the same day, and I wasted no time in soaking the nib to get all traces of the old ink out, before screwing in the new converter, and sucking up a bunch of ink from the nice little square Aurora bottle. It worked immediately, as would be expected, still being loaded with ink. I set it aside to test later.

The following morning it wrote just as smoothly as any pen I’ve used. Well, almost. The Kaweco I think is still smoother, but that may be because it’s so light in the hand. I was very pleased, because I can now use my nice Cross pen as my “daily writer” ugh did I actually just write that?

It’s at this point in fountain pen articles where I would normally be expected to post photographs of my testing pages. I won’t be doing that; while fountain pens improve my handwriting, they don’t do so to the extent that I want to show you. Legible is good enough.

Bottles of ink? Converters? Maybe I’ll convert my old Parker Vector as well. I feel like I’ve made my first step into a larger world, a world where I will likely end up with ink all over my shirt in the very near future.


Just Dropped Something

This post is part of the Notes from the Dog Walker series.

Gordon enjoyed hiking with the black dog group today. Now he’s barking at your upstairs neighbours who just dropped something. We went to Diamond Canyon where Gordon was a very good boy 🙂

Hot In All His Fluff?

This post is part of the Notes from the Dog Walker series.

Normally Gordon is out in front of the group, trumpeting his way down the trail. Today though he stayed in the back, not sure why though… Maybe he was hot in all his fluff? We hiked in Leona, Gordon was a good boy.

I Wear Gloves

This post is part of the Notes from the Dog Walker series.

Gordon got to bark at 2 Shepherds today! So exciting. We hiked in Chabot, Gordon let me chase him playfully a bit, which is always fun. I wear gloves for this game…

Extra Cute

This post is part of the Notes from the Dog Walker series.

Gordon has been extra cute today. Not because of anything he did, just in general. We hiked in Diamond Canyon, which was cool and shady, and a little creeky.